Foreword from the World Health Organization

World Health Organization Regional Director for Europe, Zsuzsanna Jakab

The lungs are essential for life. Yet respiratory diseases still remain a leading cause of death and disability in Europe and across the world.

The prevention and control of respiratory diseases is part of the WHO European Health Policy Health 2020, the noncommunicable disease (NCD) action plan for the WHO European region’s implementation of the UN Declaration on NCDs; and our joint efforts to tackle tuberculosis through the Consolidated Action Plan to Prevent and Control M/XDR-TB 2011–2015. Our approach has been focused on the prevention of these diseases. We have made many efforts together with the ERS and others to prevent and reduce the risk factors for respiratory disease, through controlling infection, combating indoor and outdoor pollution, avoiding and preventing health inequalities and encouraging all parties of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control to fully implement the protocol and guidelines of this first international public health treaty. However, as the ERS Presidents note in their introduction to this book, a great deal more is needed to achieve better protection of lung health
in Europe.

Part of the mandate of the WHO Regional Office for Europe is to monitor and report on the health of nearly 900 million people in the WHO European Region, and I very much welcome the important contribution this comprehensive European Lung White Book makes to our work and the tracking of the burden of respiratory disease in Europe in general. Indeed, it is 10 years since the 2003 version first provided health professionals with a comprehensive picture of not just the health burden of respiratory diseases, but just as importantly the health systems and socioeconomic impacts as well.

The White Book points to the progress that has been made in respiratory medicine and disease prevention in the Europe since the first edition a decade ago. Age-standardised rates of mortality from lung disease have gone down and hospital admissions have remained stable. Smoking rates may be falling from a regional perspective, but there remain
high numbers of smokers in individual countries; and the effects of smoking carry a long-term burden. Despite improvements, therefore, great challenges remain. A major example is the lack of standard data collection, which hampers meaningful comparisons in many areas. This needs more recognition and deserves concerted action in partnership between governments, agencies such as the WHO and medical societies such as the ERS.

To this end, I believe that we need a real paradigm shift in the way we think about disease prevention and health promotion. We need an approach that is comprehensive and that takes health and health inequity issues into consideration in all policy areas. It is time for a new strategic vision that makes health – including essential lung health – a responsibility in all areas of government. Health 2020, together with partners such as the ERS, contributes to making this shift.

Zsuzsanna Jakab

Zsuzsanna Jakab

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